INTERVIEW: Oil Boom Is Over, Farm Is Next – Ita Enang

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Several people who have followed the political career of Senator Ita Enang refer to him as the Iuckiest from this part of the world, having successfully served in the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly and both levels of the National Assembly.

And once APC took over power, he easily switched from PDP where he had being everything to APC and became Senior Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on National Assembly Matters.

In this interview with newsmen in Uyo, he speaks on the delay in returning to the issue of implementing the National Conference Report, the sick economy and way to economic recovery Henry Nkom was there.

Why has the Buhari led administration unwilling to implement the report of the National Conference which many Nigerian say will answer many questions challenging Nigeria?

That was the action of the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration. The Report was land on the floor of the floor of the  Senate and House of Representatives and that National Assembly was dissolved on the 6th of June 2015 and unless reintroduced the action is no more pending.

You have been an advocate of licensing modular refineries and it is now being considered by the Buhari government, let Nigerians know the full benefit of it.

The APC federal government has various means by which it wants to solve the problems of the petroleum sector. First is to work towards ensuring the existing refineries optimize their capacity. There is also the plan to license modular refineries. By next year it is expected that the Dangote refinery will almost begin operation. All these will raise the refinering capacity of Nigeria. Also, remember that sitting on the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives I used to pray that oil should finish so that we can start thinking. I also used to pray and ask that the government stopped destroying what they call illegal refineries. So, I was glad when the Minister of petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu said he will integrate the modular refineries into Nigeria’s refining plan.

I used to advise that government should not go to Ikot Abasi, Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, and Creeks of Niger Delta to destroy what they call illegal refineries; rather; they should give capacity support to those refineries, so that they can produce more decent fuel, more decent diesel, kerosene and then have value for the other by- products. I believe that if this policy is implemented it is going to work well. When we go to import fuel, we do not mind buying from the small modular refineries in those countries and then collate them before we transport them to our country. This method of collating palm oil before sale has been working in our communities.

Therefore, all we need to do is to set some quality control measures for the modular refineries. When these modular refineries produce and we meet local needs, we can now export what is left to earn Dollar. This is the kind of policy all Nigerians should support.

What are some practical steps APC is taking to get Nigeria out of the present economic hardship?

Most commodities in the world market are bought and sold with the Dollar. So, the amount of money available to the world relates to the amount of money available to Nigeria. Furthermore, the amount of money available to Nigeria will be determined by how much oil is sold. This is because Nigeria earns foreign exchange by exporting oil. Germany on the other hand will earn money based on how many cars it exports to other countries and earn Dollars.

Today, oil is less than $40 dollars per barrel but in the Jonathan’s administration oil was sold for as much as $150, now if you compare the difference, you will agree with me that even if production were tripled, Nigeria won’t be able to earn the kind of money it earned at that time. The economy is so challenged because it was more import oriented. We send out so much crude out of the country and then import a lot of the refined fuel; infact it is clear that the importation was more than what was exported.

The world and Nigeria is challenged by the fall in the price of crude oil. But how we are going to come out of this is to add value to our refined product by refining it in Nigeria. If we refine in Nigeria we won’t have to pay export duty on crude to be taken to other countries to be refined and import duty to bring back refined products.

The tax we claimed to earn from exporting oil is deceit because Nigeria actually taxes itself. Customs will claim to earn custom duty from imported products; the same duty paid by Nigeria. Point numbers two is to quickly diversify the economy and improve on agriculture.

The greatest resource man has is land and so far what Nigeria has been surviving on is what it is taking under the land not what it can take from the top. Nigeria clearly has been mining only oil and minerals but has woefully failed to take advantage of its agricultural potentials.

In Nigeria it is the poor that feeds the rich because the thinking is that agriculture is for the poor. Every person should make sure from now that he has a garden where he or she can plant vegetables at least.

In my compound here in Uyo, you’d find that I planted, Atama, water leaf, bitter leaf, Avocado Pear, local pear, oranges and so on. We should begin to live in such a way that one meal taken in the morning comes from the garden in our compound. Nigeria should discourage people from planting flowers because everything we take is green. We are not making adequate herbal use of flowers. Why do we plant flowers, if they can’t be eaten by us. If you come to my house in Abuja, you will find all kind of edible plants there. Why do we plant flowers, put manure, water and exhaust energy on something we can’t eat when we could have applied similar energy and had food. We must encourage people to do domestic agriculture, even if it is for self sustenance.

Things have become so bad in this country that we now import palm oil from Cameroun, while the palm trees in our country are over growing with weeds.

Why this is urgent is that oil price will come down even more because there is less use of oil right now. A lot of people now have inverters. More people don’t use diesel again. In time past street light in Uyo were powered by diesel but there is effort to power them with solar now. China, India, and so many other countries were importing our oil for the purpose of generating energy, but they are now experts in solar energy. Countries still importing oil now are countries in the same climate region as UK, because they have less sunlight and so they use oil only in that season. But when the summer comes and there is heat, they no more buy oil. This is because with the sunlight, they are able to generate solar energy. There is even new technology now in which cars won’t be driven with gasoline or fuel, rather they will be driven with stored up energy and electricity.

This is why the APC government is thinking out of the box to earn more Dollars; so that we can sustain our economy.

What everyone must take note of is that there is only one source of revenue for the entire country, the Federation Account and it is from here that the three tiers of government derive their income, so if the economy will improve, all the tiers of government would have to work together. So for some PDP state governments to claim that the economy will be improved only by the efforts of APC government at the centre is totally out of place. They have completely failed to declare what they are taking from the Federation Account which they are not managing well. And so they want to shift the blame.

The local governments also collect their own share. So, they have their own money to spend. The Federal Government does not owe any of its parastatals salary. The state and local governments collect money for salaries; so they should go ahead and pay.

Therefore if the states and local governments get their own share and decide to use it for frivolities, it cannot turn around to blame the federal government for its failures. I think it is insulting to the people for any state or local government to think that the people are not aware they are collecting their own allocations. I thank God we now publish every month, the amount of money that goes to the 774 LGAs, and 36 states. Akwa Ibom state collects the highest revenue from the federation Account. Therefore, should Akwa Ibom workers complain. If they are not getting salaries on time something is wrong with the governance of the state, something is wrong with the application of the funds, the concept of governance. If Akwa Ibom workers are to complain then it is a rulership, not a leadership. Anybody who is governing should take the people along.

What do we do to deal with the herdsmen/farmers clashes that leads to death and loss of live?

We should have ranches. The government should create grazing areas for them. Whoever wants to rear animals should have a land of their own which they are to in turn use for a ranch. I remember that there was a bill that came from senator Kufre of Niger State to establish grazing reserves in Nigeria.

Let us realize that the federal government can only create reserves in the federal capital territory. The state governor who control lands in the states should do same in states. In the Northern part of Nigeria, there is a law that existed which permits creative of grazing reserves but in Akwa Ibom and the rest of the other states, it does not exist.

Each of the states knowing the importance of both farmers and herdsmen can make law to control the activities of each party in order to avoid clashes.

In specific terms what is the agriculture policy of the federal government.

The policy of the APC federal government is to give value per metre of land. People should look at their lands after six months and find out what they planted and its yield sadly in Akwa Ibom we are not using our land, travel across and look at the how the lands that are fertile are simply wasting. On these vast lands, nobody plants cassava or pumpkin leaves. If you see oil palm, it is the one that is growing by mistakes. Those one planted in the past are no longer receiving any attention, they are overgrown with weeds and nobody is making efforts to clear the weeds. I think hunger may drive a lot of people back to the farm. I had always said that it will come to when we in Akwa Ibom and the entire south will have to beg the North for food, because the North takes agriculture as business but we don’t over here. This is why I have been praying that oil should finish, so that we can all come back to our senses. I am not opposed to gold course but consider the energy and resources spent in planting grass on gold course as we do and I can say that if the same quantity of energy is transferred to farming then we would have a lot of food to eat.

Thank God for this revelation that has come and it is that cancer is caused more by preserved foods and drinks. This is why I don’t take imported apples and grapes because they use formalin and other chemicals to preserve them; and they cause cancer. If you observe a lot of enlightened people don’t eat those imported drinks and rice. In my house I have banned imported rice. I eat local Abakdiki Ebonyi, Benue and Nassarawa rice. The imported rice are parboiled and they spray them with chemical used in preserving dead bodies so that the rice and imported food will last for as long as possible.

These chemicals are very dangerous to our system; they cause cancer in all part of the body. So I encourage Akwa Ibom people not to buy imported rice again, because they lead to cancers and other ailments.

On the 21st of December, a Chinese came to my house and presented a small bay of rice about 5kg to me and I asked him the difference between the rice he gave me and the one in the market. He said that what he was giving me is what they eat. He said they don’t eat the one sent to Nigeria. He said that the rice they eat is brought in every one or two months. This is why when they have contracts they include the food they will eat because they don’t eat the general food we eat. So the people who produce the rice and spray it with chemicals don’t eat it, out they send it to you, goats and sheep to eat and die.

This was the same way Obasanjo banned importation of chicken and we thought he was preserving his farm. But I eat the locally pronounced chicken and compare the taste with the foreign one and you will see that the local one tastes better and is healthier.

So, it has become necessary for us to eat not just to fill our tummy; but to eat and stay healthy and alive. So we should produce locally and eat locally.

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